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New Government told ‘no time to waste’ reviving smoking ban legislation

08 Jul 2024 4 minute read
A cigarette burning on an ashtray. Photo Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Labour must seize the opportunity to phase out smoking “with both hands”, leading health experts have said as they called on the new Government to revive legislation designed to ban young people from ever being able to legally smoke.

More than 1,000 experts across the health sector have urged the Government to include the law “front and centre” when it announces its legislative programme in the King’s Speech.

Former prime minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to crack down on smoking through his flagship Tobacco and Vapes Bill last year.

The Bill – dubbed the “greatest piece of public health legislation in a generation” – had earned wide cross-party support and was progressing through Parliament when the General Election was called.

Charities and health experts were dismayed when the Bill was shelved as a result.

Stricter regulations

The law would have made it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009, as well as cracking down on youth vaping with stricter regulations on flavours and packaging.

“Labour cannot achieve its manifesto commitment to halve differences in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest regions unless it prioritises ending smoking,” according to a letter written to Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and Health Secretary Wes Streeting.

The letter, whose signatories include experts from leading health and care charities including Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), said that the Bill “would have passed by summer recess if the election had not been called”.

The authors, led by Professor Nick Hopkinson, chair of ASH, said: “There is no time to waste.

“Measures to prevent vapes being marketed to children are urgently needed, while they remain accessible as an effective quitting aid for adult smokers.”


The letter, which has been shared with the PA news agency and was due to be published by the medical journal The BMJ on Monday, concludes: “Britain was the birthplace of the tobacco industry, which killed over 100 million people in the 20th century and is on track to kill one billion in the 21st, mainly in low and middle-income countries.

“The UK now has the chance to lead the world in phasing out smoking. The new Government must seize it with both hands.”

Commenting, Prof Hopkinson said: “Together, as concerned doctors and clinicians, charities and public health experts, we have united to urge the new Government to prioritise bringing back the Tobacco and Vapes Bill without delay.”

Dr Jeanette Dickson, chair of council at the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said: “The Tobacco and Vapes Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to radically improve the health and well-being of our society, and safeguard future generations from the devastation caused by smoking.

“It is imperative that bringing back this essential Bill is a priority for the new Government.”

Greg Fell, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, added: “Put simply, this would be the greatest piece of public health legislation in a generation.”

‘Horrendous harm’

Prof Sanjay Agrawal, the RCP’s special adviser on tobacco, said: “In my lung cancer clinics and in intensive care units, I see week after week the horrendous harm caused to my patients by smoking.

“Almost without exception, they became addicted as children. Despite the terrible damage smoking has already caused them, many still find it hard to quit.

“The RCP urges the Government to bring back the Tobacco and Vapes Bill without delay so we can create the first smoke-free generation and tackle youth vaping, while ensuring that adult smokers in the UK still have access to e-cigarettes as a quit-aid.”

Other signatories include representatives from The King’s Fund; the Centre for Ageing Better; the Mental Health Foundation; Asthma and Lung UK; the British Heart Foundation; Diabetes UK; Alzheimer’s Research UK; Versus Arthritis; Age UK and Royal Colleges representing surgeons; GPs; psychiatrists; obstetricians and gynaecologists.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

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6 days ago

Ban alcohol too then.

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